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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 3, Issue 2, Pages 229-235
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nel034
Review Article

The State of the Art of Traditional Arab Herbal Medicine in the Eastern Region of the Mediterranean: A Review

1The Galilee Society R&D Center (Affiliated with Haifa University, Haifa, Israel) PO Box 437, Shefa Amr 20200, Israel
2Faculty of Allied Medical Sciences, Arab American University, PO Box 240, Jenin, Palestine

Received 26 January 2006; Accepted 12 May 2006

Copyright © 2006 Hassan Azaizeh et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Historical and current studies indicate that the Eastern region of the Mediterranean has been distinguished from other regions by a rich inventory of complementary alternative medicine (CAM), in particular herbal medicine. Data collected from several surveys and studies indicate that there is a flourishing and well-developed trade of herbs. These surveys also reveal that 200–250 herbs are used in treating human diseases and are sold or traded in market places in the Mediterranean region or internationally. In addition, some of these herbs are rare or even endangered species. In regard to the status of the know-how of herbalists, unfortunately, herbal medicine in our region is mostly prescribed by ethnopharmacologists symptomatically—based on signs and symptoms alone, rather than as a result of a full understanding of the underlying disease. In some cases, herbs used today may not even correspond to the plants described originally in the old literature, as the former are cultivated from herbs that went through different breeding procedures throughout several centuries. This article presents a systematic review of both the state of the art of traditional Arab herbal medicine and the status of the know-how of Arab herbalists.